Weaving the Past and Present: A Day with the Murji Bhai Weaver Family
A Journey to Tarkasar - There's something captivating about meeting artisans who've spent years crafting beautiful textiles with their hands. So, when we planned our trip to Tarkasar in Bhuj, I was bubbling with excitement. I looked forward to meeting a weaver and hearing all about his work and experiences.
The Journey Begins: A Road Less Traveled
Our path to Tarkasar was an enchanting journey through winding, narrow roads, which was away from the hustle bustle of the city. It was here that Chetan and his brother Vishal who have a craft studio in Bhuj and were our guides for our entire time in Bhuj, shared their personal stories of how they came to be involved with the weaver we were soon to meet. Chetan had played a key role in bringing weaving back to this village after almost 3 decades.
A Village Lost in Time
I would love to paint a picture of Tarkasar for you: a small village, no more than a speck on the map, where approximately 600 souls reside, equally divided between men and women. Here, you'll find just a handful of homes scattered amidst vast expanses of fertile land, a testament to the village's agrarian roots. Our journey was accompanied by the sight of robust castor plants swaying gently in the breeze, their leaves whispering tales of a simple, unhurried existence.
Arriving at Murji's Home: Where Weaving Happens
Finally after traveling for around 2 hours, we arrived at Murji Bhai’s house, right across from a small beautiful temple. His house had a rustic charm, with a front yard (on the left hand side) holding three old wooden looms. Murji, around 65 years old, married and has four sons. One of his sons (Manji Bhai) was weaving on one loom, and on another loom, he was teaching a relative how to weave.
Unraveling Murji Bhai’s Life
As a young boy, Murji bhai wove intricate fabrics, his fingers weaving magic, which he learned from his uncle . However, as the demand for handmade textiles dwindled, he left Tarkasar in search of employment. Years passed while he toiled in Muscat, miles away from his roots and his family. It wasn't until his children had grown that he decided to return to Tarkasar. Thankfully, the wheel of fortune had turned, and the demand for handcrafted textiles was on the upswing. A serendipitous connection led him to Chetan, and they embarked on a journey to revive a centuries-old tradition.
After nearly two decades away, it took time for Murji Bhai to regain his weaving prowess. Initially, the quality may not have been impeccable, but with practice, it improved. Like everyone else in the village, Murji Bhai tends to his land, cultivating vegetables, castor, and fruits. He shows us the fields where these crops thrive, emphasizing the importance of self-sufficiency – like how 70% of Indian population does. To safeguard his crops from nocturnal intruders, he even spends nights guarding his fields.
On our way back from the fields, we encounter Murji bhai’s wife, gracefully balancing wood logs on her head which will be later used for cooking. Returning to Murji bhai’s home, we find his son, Manji bhai engrossed in weaving Kala Cotton, an indigenous organic cotton variety from Gujarat. I was eager to try my hand at weaving, thankfully Manji lets me take the shuttle. I attempt to recall the basics I learned from Himalayan weavers, but it's clear that mastering this craft would require extensive training. Maybe Murji Bhai could teach me someday.
Manji Bhaij’s loom, equipped with 3600 individual yarns, took three days to set up, each yarn meticulously warped by hand. The craftsmanship is nothing short of incredible.
Murji Bhai's daughter-in-law showed us around their house and how they live, what they eat and about their simple yet wholesome life they lead.
And it’s time to say goodbye to Murji Bhai and his big, sweet family
In Murji Bhai's house, a total of 18 people reside—Murji himself, his wife, sons, their wives, and their children. It's almost like a small village within his home, but what warms the heart is witnessing their harmonious coexistence, mutual support, and above all, their genuine happiness and contentment. It's a glimpse into a simpler, more fulfilling way of life—a life interwoven with the rich tapestry of tradition and family bonds, a life where the past and present seamlessly blend.
On our way to another weaver, it was time to get some information from Chetan about Murji bhai's financial progress since his return to weaving, and Chetan's response filled me with immense joy and pride. Witnessing Murji Bhai's remarkable journey towards financial stability serves as a powerful source of motivation for me, reaffirming my commitment to collaborating with artisan communities for future Fifth Origins collections.
This docustory would not be possible without the help of Chetan, Vishal and most importantly Murji bhai for sharing his life experiences with us.